A Hungry and Disheveled Cat Named Slim Is Picked Up Off the Streets of Ottawa by a Rescuer Who Refuses to Return Him to His Owners
"Obviously, I have no intention of returning him to the city streets to be neglected again. If you really do care about his well-being, you'll be happy that he now lives a safe, sweet, peaceful, happy life."
-- Slim's Rescuer
About a month ago, an unidentified person rescued a seventeen-year-old black and white longhaired cat named Slim from the streets of Ottawa. He was thin and hungry, his fur dirty and matted, and his torso covered with sores. He was also sans his tail as the result of a previous unexplained mishap. (See photo above.)
Since he was wearing a collar and tags, his rescuer knew immediately who his owners were and could have promptly returned him. Because of his poor condition, however, the rescuer decided it would be best to hold on to him instead.
Not wanting Slim's lawful owners, Michel Giroux and Tanya Guay, to fret about him, the rescuer sent them an anonymous letter on June 30th that bore the salutation "About Your Cat." (See photo below of Guay holding the letter with Giroux at her side.)
"This is to inform you that I have your cat," the handwritten epistle began. It went on to lecture Giroux and Guay about their flagrant neglect of their cat.
The real shocker, however, was the rescuer's declaration that she (it is presumed to be a woman) had absolutely no intention of relinquishing him. "Obviously, I have no intention of returning him to the city streets to be neglected again," the letter is quoted as stating according to a July 4th report on the CBC. (See "Catnapper Claims Missing Pet Living in Country Comfort.") "If you really do care about his well-being, you'll be happy that he now lives a safe, sweet, peaceful, happy life."
The missive went on to explain that the rescuer had provided Slim with a home in the country on a lake. He is also being fed a diet consisting of all-natural cat food and even has a new love interest in the form of a "sweet female cat." The writer additionally stressed that Slim is now "incredibly happy and healthy."
Receipt of the epistle has left Giroux appalled. "Who does this person think she is to decide this cat is neglected?" he groused to the Ottawa Sun on July 4th. (See "Cops Hunt Cat Burglar.")
Calming down a bit, he did admit to the CBC that he and Guay are relieved, as well as angry, that Slim is safe. "This person has taken it upon themselves (sic) to think that they have saved a cat when in point of fact, this cat is not neglected and he's loved and we just want him home," he added.
Adopted from a shelter at the tender age of three-months-old, Slim has been allowed to roam the streets of Ottawa's New Edinburgh neighborhood in much the same carefree fashion that Booth Tarkington's fictional Gipsy did in the author's celebrated novel, Penrod and Sam.
He is therefore well-known in the neighborhood and would sometimes be AWOL for as long as two days at a time. He was also a regular diner at the homes of several of Giroux and Guay's neighbors.
"He had his route and he had his families that he liked to visit. And they knew that and they knew where he lived," Guay confessed to the CBC. Despite his roaming, "He always checked in," she added.
Although it is not known if New Edinburgh is a neighborhood conducive for roaming cats, the fact that Slim has survived for seventeen years is an indication that it must be a relatively quite residential area. It also is not known if he has been sterilized, although it is doubtful that he would be such a welcome sight if he were impregnating every female cat in the neighborhood.
After initially fearing that he might have slunk off somewhere to cross the Rainbow Bridge by his lonesome, his owners reported him missing to the Ottawa Humane Society and blanketed the neighborhood with three-hundred-fifty posters bearing his likeness. They also have filed a complaint with the police who are said to be actively seeking Slim's rescuer.
Since cats are said to belong to places as opposed to people, Giroux fears that Slim will attempt to walk back home but will not make it because of the traffic and other dangers associated with such a long journey. "This watching the sun set while eating organic cat food -- I don't really think this is his thing," he told the Ottawa Sun. He instead believes that Slim is happiest prowling the streets of New Edinburgh.
Although her intention was only to reassure Slim's owners, the rescuer probably erred in writing to them. There cannot be all that many lakes in and around Ottawa so consequently the police may eventually locate her. While it is certainly not a crime to rescue a cat off the streets, knowingly holding on to someone else's cat is a crime and if found out she will be prosecuted.
This case is very similar to another famous cat custody battle that involved a Russian Blue. In that case, aspiring Manhattan poet Chavisa Woods allowed her cat Oliver to slip out of her Lower East Side walk-up. (See Cat Defender post of January 3, 2006 entitled "Manhattan Court to Rely Upon 1894 Dog Law to Decide Custody Battle over a Russian Blue Cat Named Oliver Gatsby.")
The cat was rescued from the mean streets by a cat lover who took him to KittyKind on Union Square. KittyKind, it might be recalled, was headed at that time by now convicted cat hoarder Marlene Kess. (See Cat Defender posts of May 26, 2005 and March 29, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Cat Hoarder Masquerading as Cat Savior Kills More Than 200 Cats" and "Famed Manhattan Cat Hoarder Marlene Kess Gets Off with a Fine and Community Service.")
The cat was then adopted by an unidentified attorney who renamed him Gatsby. (See photo below.) All went fine for about a year until Woods somehow found out what had happened to her cat and sued to regain custody of him.
A much anticipated landmark ruling on pet ownership was aborted when the attorney, proceeding under le nom de guerre of Jane Doe, capitulated after a preliminary ruling went against her.
The cases are dissimilar in several key aspects but both underscore the point that cats are considered under the law to be property and as such the courts tend to side with their original owners, no matter how negligent they may have been in their responsibilities to their cats. Slim may very well be better off with his new caretaker but it is doubtful that she will prevail in court if discovered and charged.
On a strictly practical level, any cat found disheveled and starving in the streets presents a prima facie case of animal neglect. There may be perfectly good reasons for a cat to wind up in such circumstances, but once a cat ventures off its owner's property it becomes prone to a thousand dangers. It could be run down deliberately by a motorist or attacked by a dog or a raccoon. It also could be killed by either bird lovers, wildlife proponents, or Animal Control.
Cats have an inalienable right to be outdoors and to roam but their caretakers should first make sure that the environment is conducive to such behavior before turning them loose.
Finally, this case once again highlights the ineffectiveness of collars, tags, tattoos, and microchips in protecting cats. All of these devices are totally worthless against the machinations of both catnappers and ailurophobes.
Giroux and Guay may eventually get their cat back but it will be only because of the letter that Slim's new caretaker sent to them.
Photos: Tanya Guay (Slim), A.D. Wilson of the Ottawa Sun (Guay and Giroux), and Chavisa Woods (Oliver Gatsby).